I'm constantly amazed at how hard mothers can be on each other. It seems to me that some women feel the need to compete for the “best mother” award with every other woman they see or speak to who has a child. I find this an incredibly distressing trend. Ladies, why are we so hard on each other?
I subscribe to and read a few parenting boards. For the most part I find them interesting and helpful. It is always a comfort to hear that your child is not the only one who does some incredibly strange things. I have become quite close with one group of women with whom I've been chatting for over two years. We branched out and formed our own message board about a year ago. I offer this information to demonstrate that I don't think all mothers are hostile towards each other. However, more and more I am becoming disillusioned with some of these mainstream sites. I frequently see mothers attack other mothers for some of the silliest reasons. This seems to me completely out of character with the purpose of these boards, to be support groups. But then again, perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps it's not about support. Perhaps it's about coming out on top.
I have encountered some really bizarre criticisms in my short stint as a mother. I have had women (and mind you, it is almost always women, other mothers, who make these statements) ridicule me for my diapering choices: “Why on earth would you want to wash your diapers?!? That's so silly. Disposable diapers are so much easier.” I've been mocked for wearing Morgan in a wrap: “That just looks so uncomfortable. Why don't you just get a stroller and be done with it. It's so much more practical.” My answers to those sorts of derisive statements? “My daughter is nearly 6 months old and has never had a diaper rash. Why wouldn't I use cloth diapers?” “Actually, I have a stroller. I just find it easier sometimes not to have to pull it in and out of the car for no reason.” I won't even get into the comments I get on my natural birth in a tub, although admittedly the ones I got before the birth were much more harsh and judgmental, telling me things like I was putting my unborn baby's life in danger. I know I've already complained on this blog once about people telling me I need to let my baby cry if she's ever going to learn to go to sleep on her own.
Those are some of the issues I have come across in real life. On line is an entirely different world. Perhaps it's the anonymity of message boards that allows women to feel that they can rip into other women's parenting choices. Whatever the reason may be, I find that the attacks on parenting styles tend to me much more severe on line than they are in person.
A few examples: I recently read a thread on a board in which mother asked for advice on how to freeze homemade purees. Do you think anyone offered her advice or information on this topic? No, it was much more important to chastise her for feeding her child pureed foods when everybody knows that if the babies can't pick up the food for themselves they shouldn't be eating it. The other morning another woman posted that “tummy time” was invented by parents who drop their children into contraptions 24/7 because they need to be reminded to flip their babies every now and again. The implication, of course, was that if you put your child in any sort of “contraption” then you are a bad parent and must remember to put your child on the floor for tummy time, kind of like flipping a comatose patient to prevent bed sores. I was disgusted by that statement. There is, of course, the ever present hostility of, “Don't talk to me about breastfeeding!” and “giving the baby formula is the same as feeding her plastic.” The list goes on: If you use a stroller it obviously must mean that you don't love your child enough to hold him or her all the time; if you don't have your child sleeping in your bed with you they will grow up to be needy and unfulfilled.
When did it become the right and, seemingly, the obligation of women to tell other mothers how to raise their own kids? I have news for you. If my child is independent and likes playing in an exersaucer and I don't allow her to do so, that, my friends, is not responding to her needs. If my baby does not want to be carried in her Maya wrap today, forcing her is not responding to her needs. If my baby wants to eat “adult food” and can't quite manage the manual dexterity to eat finger foods, refusing to allow her to eat purees is not responding to her needs. If she does not sleep well next to me in bed and I insist on keeping her there anyway, I'm not doing it for her, I'm doing it for me.
I wish mothers would lighten up and be more supportive of each other. Mothering is a hard job. It requires a lot of long hours and difficult decisions. Why must we rip into each other instead of offering support? I think we should all take a moment and congratulate a mother we know on the good job she is doing. Offer your fellow women support, not criticism!